This spinning wheel was owned and used by Miss Augusta Dora Merewether Busby, honorary secretary of the 19th Battalion Comforts Fund during the First World War.
The spinning wheel was recently donated to our National Collection by Miss Busby’s nephews, and was in need of great care and attention. In addition to grime and rust, the wheel was fragmented into over a dozen different pieces that had been detached, broken or lost entirely.
In preparation for storage, we in objects conservation began the process of documenting the physical condition and qualities of the spinning wheel. This included detailed photography of the different components and the damage to the wheel. In this process we discovered that the wheel had undergone several previous repairs, including old repairs to splits in the frame, replacement of the treadle, and replacement of a single wheel spoke. These were identified by differences in production techniques, as well as by inconsistencies in the surface finish.
We then explored our conservation treatment options to prepare the spinning wheel for storage. Our goal is to stabilise recent acquisitions so they can be safely stored for future research and display. During this process, we must consult with curators and decide whether particular damage shows evidence of an object’s history. For example, there were two types of dirt and grime on the spinning wheel. The top layer of loose dust and fibre was caused by years in storage. The layer beneath this was at least partially accumulated closer to the time of the spinning wheel’s use. Future analysis of this layer may yield information; it is also the source of the weathered and authentic aesthetic qualities we would expect from an object that has survived through the years. These signs of wear give us a sense of the object’s history, and should remain in place. This idea formed the basis of our conservation treatment.